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Incorrect flight path or pilot fatigue caused crash?

By K Ramnath Shenoy
Last updated on: May 23, 2010 15:47 IST
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An 'incorrect' flight path, missing the touchdown point, a brake failure, pilots' fatigue and judgmental error are various reasons being cited by technical experts for the plane crash at Mangalore.


The Boeing 737-800 of the Air India Express on Saturday overshot the runway and its 90 metre long spillover area, plunged into a ravine and burst into flames, claiming 158 lives. While an official claimed that an 'incorrect' flight path taken by the pilots of the ill-fated plane led to overshooting of the runway, this was being countered by another expert, who said the Air Traffic Control had given clearance to the aircraft to pursue the flight path and lock on to the Instrument Landing System when the aircraft was 10 miles away.


A section of senior pilots, including the Indian Commercial Pilots Association, have blamed pilot fatigue for being responsible for the major accident. Some believe that the cockpit crew of flight IX-892 tried to ensure a smooth landing instead of landing on a thud and, hence, overshot the touchdown point on the 8,000-feet runway.


The touchdown point is an area of about 500 feet on the runway where the aircraft's wheels should touch for landing. This, the sources said, could have been done as the airline has been insisting on avoiding bumpy landings.


As speculation over the cause of the crash continued, the investigators of the Inspectorate of Inquiry, set up by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Saturday, are in the process of taking possession of audio tapes from the Air Traffic Control tower at the airport.


All parts of the wreckage of the aircraft, which are being retrieved from the crash site, are being taken by officials of the Inspectorate, the sources said. The Inspectorate will hand over the entire wreckage and other evidence material to the Court of Inquiry, which the government is likely to announce in a couple of days.


It has already been made clear, even by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel that the runway was operationally compliant and technically fit for operating an aircraft of Boeing 737-800 series and the plane was just over two years old with no history of defects or malfunctioning.

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K Ramnath Shenoy In Mangalore
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